April 24, 2003

Positively State St: From Kountry To Klezmer

Originally from the Santa Barbara Independent. Featuring Earl and the Expanding Polka Funk Experience.

HIGHLY STRUNG PIANO: The high profile show of the week for many in town will be Tori Amos at the Arlington on Friday the 18th. Amos, supporting her recent "Scarlet's Walk" CD, has been performing a good chunk of that album balanced with a wide selection of hits and fan favorites from her considerable back catalogue. Scaled down a bit from County Bowl performances of recent years, the show is set to be Amos assisted by a small combo, including bassist Jon Evans and drummer Matt Chamberlain (but no guitarists as in the past). Still, Amos might find time in the set to go it alone, accompanying herself with a Bosendorfer piano (or a Rhodes or Wurlitzer waiting in the wings). Also likely on this tour, as on previous jaunts, will be a so-called "meet and greet" with the woman herself, usually undertaken pre-soundcheck. Incredibly lucky or persistent Tori-philes need apply only.

Opening the show will be a Texan named Rhett Miller, otherwise known for his job fronting the chunky roots-rock of the Old 97's. Miller's performances from his second solo outing, the "Instigator" LP, will probably bear little resemblance to that band, however; the lush, poppier arrangements of his solo material usually provide ample contrast to any of the (relatively) starker 97's songs that may be appearing in his sets. Fans of sharp lyricism and tight songwriting will surely dig the rollicking way that Miller flaunts these particular talents of his.

UNSUNG HEROES: More than a few of us owe our continual musical well-being to a man called Earl. Long a staple of cozy local venues like Bogart's and JoJo's (as well as countless others further afield), our favorite purveyor of frenetic fusionoid klezmer-boogie entered the studio last weekend to begin crafting a follow-up to the "I Am Next To You" album. Backing up His Earlness for this go-round will be stand-up bassist Jeff Kranzler as well as not one, but two extraordinary percussionists: longtime ally William Paisley on drums and new addition Matt Talmage on vibraphone. The latest combo, dubbed "Earl and the Expanding Polka Funk Experience" are set to show off the fruits of their labor on April 26, way up at the dizzying heights of the Cold Spring Tavern.

Gravity Willing's recent split seems to have left everyone from that band in limbo except erstwhile frontman Nick de Sieyes, who's charged off in a solo acoustic direction that was only hinted at before in parts of the band's fantastically epic sets. Should one assume that such rocking grandiostiy is incapable of quieter presentation, one would indeed be very wrong. See for yourself when Nick shows off his new stuff at the Wildcat on Tuesday, April 15th.

Also, on a more ominous note of local talent attrition, radio silence, or at least the web equivalent, has descended over the sites of a few Isla Vista recent stalwart rock bands like OJ Barbados and jammers Blue Room (whose site has been on the blink for some time). Call it mushy, sentimental, or whatever you like, but I never like to hear about bands breaking up (which, for lack of any information, seems to be the case for both of these fine lineups). Even so, at press time OJB is slated to play along with the Youngbloods on April 7 at the Coach House.

However, El Jefe is still a force on the move, and will be in town promoting their new disc "El Jefe's Amorphous Phormula". This high-energy group have made leaps and bounds in their continuing quest to refine the perfect mix of rock, reggae, and hip hop, and if you haven't heard their powerful authority since their days of yore in Isla Vista, then you owe it to yourself to catch them at Velvet Jones on April 12 with Pensativa and Tabularasa.

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